The acclaimed Kronos Quartet will perform at the 2019 Melbourne International Arts Festival, the Festival announced today. The innovative string quartet will bring two programs to Jonathan Holloway’s final festival as Artistic Director, before the Melbourne International Arts Festival merges with White Night to form a new event, with Hannah Fox and Gideon Obarzanek at the helm.

Kronos QuartetKronos Quartet’s A Thousand Thoughts. Photo © Mary Cybulski

The iconic San Francisco-based string quartet, who were last in Australia in 2009, will perform in A Thousand Thoughts, which is being described as a “live documentary” by filmmaker Sam Green. Green has made a film “not actually about Kronos – because he said no one wants to see a biopic – but about all the music they’ve played and the people they’ve worked with,” Holloway told Limelight. “So new interviews with Philip Glass, with Steve Reich, with John Adams, with Tanya Tagaq, with Wu Man, with Laurie Anderson, with Yo-Yo Ma, who they’ve played with and co-commissioned with.”

“And the interviews are genius,” he says. “Sam stands on stage and kind of narrates the film and then cuts to the film and the Kronos play the work live. It was at Sundance last year and everybody said it was the absolute standout of Sundance Film Festival.”

Kronos Quartet. Photo © Jay Blakesberg

Kronos will also perform a family concert, Around the World with Kronos, which includes both traditional and contemporary repertoire.

The Kronos Quartet is the big ticket classical music item on what will be Holloway’s fourth and final festival in Melbourne. “I kind of felt like my first Festival three years ago, I wanted to be about finding out what the city was, taking stock, almost like a census, so I could learn what it was but also we could learn how it works,” he said. “The second one was really ambitious, and was about the loudest, largest, most impressive collaborations.”

“The third, last year, actually sort of returned to community and hope at a time when obviously the world was in a very complex place.”

This year, however, is about truth. “It’s about voices and truth and about how we can actually, genuinely listen to the voices we need to listen to, once they’ve been given a platform,” Holloway says. “And I think if we can just remember what truth sounds like, that might be useful enough, at this moment.”

Lina AndonovskaLina Andonovska. Photo © Asher Floyd

This year’s festival includes classical music events such as the world premiere of percussionist Matthias Schack-Arnott’s Everywhen at The Substation, while flautist Lina Andonovska performs a solo recital spanning Brett Dean to Jennifer Higdon. Audio-visual artist Robin Fox teams up with Chamber Made Opera for Diaspora, inspired by Greg Egan’s science fiction work in which human minds and machines blend. “Together they’re making almost a theatrical performance installation with projection and using moveable screens and laser creative screens and projecting onto anything they can find,” Holloway says.

This year’s festival will also see pianist Sonya Lifschitz bring Robert Davidson’s Stalin’s Piano, which premiered at the Canberra International Music Festival (though has since undergone some changes) to Melbourne, while French period instrument ensemble Nevermind performs at the festival as part of its national tour for Musica Viva Australia.

1927’s Roots. Photo © Leigh Webber

In theatre, 1927, the company who – alongside Barrie Kosky and the Komische Oper Berlin – were responsible for the animated production of The Magic Flute that came to the Perth and Adelaide festivals earlier this year, returns to Australia with its latest show Roots, which premiered at the Spoleto festival in May and is inspired by rare and often dark folk tales.

Maxine Peake, who is heading to Australia at the end of August for Sydney Theatre Company’s Avalanche: A Love Story comes to Melbourne for The Nico Project, inspired by the enigmatic singer’s solo album The Marble Index, which the UK’s Metro described at its recent premiere in Manchester as “a confrontational, confounding piece of performance art as much as theatre, shot through with moments of genuine brilliance.” The Nico Project, which is directed by Sarah Frankcom, includes music by Anna Clyne.

Playwrights Andrew Bovell, Patricia Cornelius, Melissa Reeves, Christos Tsiolkas and Irine Vela come together for the world premiere of Anthem, a follow-up to the now 20-year-old Who’s Afraid of the Working Class? which captured the zeitgeist of Australia in the 1990s, while Nakkiah Lui’s hit play Black is the New White will appear as part of Melbourne Theatre Company’s season.

In dance, this year’s festival will feature Yang Liping’s new Rite of Spring, which plays first at the Brisbane Festival, while Chunky Move will give the world premiere of Antony Hamilton’s new work, Token Armies, and Hofesh Schechter’s Grand Finale comes to Melbourne following its acclaimed run at the Adelaide Festival.

This is only a taste of the festival, with plenty more for audiences to sink their teeth into, Holloway serving up an ambitious and wide-ranging final program. “I think the world is such an utterly different place now, to what it was two or three years ago. It’s fascinating,” he says. “And I think if a festival is going to reflect society in a moment in time, it’s going to change so much year on year. Last year felt like such a celebration of community, this year feels very much like, ‘let’s try to remember what is real again.’”


The Full Program